Lakeshore Logbook – Jerry Banta

Jerry Banta
Jerry Banta
The photo of Jerry we printed in the park newspaper when he got the job.

As part of our 50th Anniversary celebration, we are collecting and sharing the stories of people connected to the islands, whether they are park guests, former residents or former park employees.

This is the 18th in our series called “Lakeshore Logbook,” a collection of memories provided by former National Park Service employees.

Living and working in the park on a day to day basis, they’ve experienced a lot to be sure. We hope you enjoy their perspectives.

Jerry Banta served as Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Superintendent for 12 years.

POSITIONS AND HISTORY

I served as superintendent from 1987 until 1999.  Prior to that time I had ranger positions at Pinnacles National Monument; Glacier, Canyonlands, and Arches National Parks;  and Colorado National Monument; and Superintendent positions at Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial, and Scotts Bluff and Agate Fossil Beds National Monuments. 

Jerry and Don Castleberry, NPS Midwest Regional Director
Jerry and Don Castleberry, NPS Midwest Regional Director.

MOST MEMORABLE APOSTLE ISLANDS EXPERIENCES

People often ask me which of the parks where I worked was my favorite.  I always tell them that I loved all of them; but, like almost any other job, the thing that made a place special was the group of people you worked with.  In that regard none exceeded the Lakeshore.  I was surrounded by a caring and highly professional work force who made it a joy to come to work every day.  (Well, almost every day.)  Additionally, we enjoyed greatly Bayfield and the other communities around the bay, and we still have may friends in those areas.

A staff photo from 1988, Jerry's first full year in the park
A staff photo from 1988, Jerry’s first full year in the park.

Of course, it was a great experience to get out into the Park.  All of it was special, and as almost everyone else did, I usually stopped by Raspberry Light Station to enjoy one of Susan Nelson’s fresh baked cookies.

Raspberry Island Lighthouse
Raspberry Island Lighthouse

My predecessor, Pat Miller, had built very strong political support at the State and National levels across both political parties.  It was a great pleasure to be invited, about twice a year, to be invited to join Gaylord Nelson and the state and federal representatives and senators of Wisconsin to Beaver Lake for a pontoon visit and dinner.  Those were memorable evenings.

Gaylord Nelson visiting with a group of students during a visit to Quarry Bay on Stockton Island
Gaylord Nelson visiting with a group of students during a visit to Quarry Bay on Stockton Island.

ACCOMPLISHMENTS

During my time at the Lakeshore we were able to complete the first General Management Plan for the Park, and to initiate the political and planning process for the Wilderness Study which eventually led to the establishment of the wilderness unit honoring Gaylord Nelson, the father of the American Wilderness System.

Jerry speaking at the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the U.S. Lighthouse Establishment in 1989.
Jerry speaking at the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the U.S. Lighthouse Establishment in 1989.

MOST SHARED STORY

At some point I had to leave to fly to Washington for a meeting during an ongoing search in the Lakeshore for a long overdue Kayaker. I changed into my meeting clothes and headed up highway 13 to the Duluth Airport. As I neared the Meyers Beach area the missing Kayaker staggered out of the woods and into the roadway.  After determining that he was okay, I told him, “We have been looking all over for you.”  He replied, “I’ve been looking for you, too.  Although I didn’t expect you to be so well dressed.”

Sea kayaker at Meyers Beach
Sea kayaker at Meyers Beach.

After leaving the Lakeshore Jerry was assigned as Superintendent of the Southeast Utah group of parks until he retired in 2004. We want to thank him for his entry into our 50th Anniversary Lakeshore Logbook. We look forward to sharing more Logbook entries with you in the coming weeks. You can find the whole series here.